BOULDER — Foundry Group, a Boulder-based venture-capital firm, has led a $1.75 million investment in Taunt, a Seattle-based esports startup. Other participants in the funding round included Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and multiple angel investors.
Taunt is a spinout of Pioneer Square Labs, whose founders, Geoff Entress, Greg Gottesman and Mike Galgon also participated in the round.
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Ben Gilbert, co-founder of PSL, is the interim CEO of the new venture.
Taunt is a social competition platform for esports fans. It uses data and machine learning to create companion experiences for fans watching broadcasts.
“We’re looking to make watching esports a much richer experience,” Gilbert said in a prepared statement. “The status quo today is an unreadable river of chat messages and message boards. The fans deserve a real social layer with competition, reputation, and statistics to engage around the game.”
As part of the financing, Brad Feld of Foundry Group will join Galgon and Gilbert on the board. Foundry Group was previously an early-stage investor in Zynga, and sees a similar opportunity with Taunt.
“Zynga built social games on top of the tidal wave of social networks,” Feld said in the prepared statement. “The phenomenon of esports provides a new frontier for similar types of interactive experiences.”
Research firm NewZoo estimates that the 2017 global audience for esports will reach 385 million people. The 2016 League of Legends World Championship Finals alone had 43 million unique viewers, as reported by Riot Games.
“Esports will dwarf traditional sports in global viewership,” Galgon said. “A competitive social fabric like Taunt will be foundational to this growth as it electrifies the game experience for experts while also providing an on-ramp to esports for new fans. And, importantly, it connects all of these fans in a single experience.”
“Being an esports fan is still largely a single-player experience,” Gilbert said. “With Taunt, it’s a multi-player one.”